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Leg 1
11/23 FINAL
1LA
0SEA
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11/30 9:00pm
SEA
LA
ESPN
Western Conference Championship
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11/23 FINAL
1NY
2NE
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11/29 3:00pm
NE
NY
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Eastern Conference Championship

Revs cope without Dempsey, Ralston

New England Revolution manager Steve Nicol dismissed any notions that his club was irrevocably harmed by the absences of Clint Dempsey and Steve Ralston, as his side lacked the incisiveness in the final third to break down the Colorado Rapids in a scoreless draw at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.

"I think any team would like to have them in the lineup," said Nicol. "We had players who were capable. We weren't sharp enough to finish our chances."

Nicol was eager to praise the visitors, who nearly nicked the game in the 49th minute with the best opportunity of the match. Jeff Cunningham found Kyle Beckerman on the right edge of his box, but Revolution 'keeper Matt Reis tipped Beckerman's drive onto the crossbar, though the ball nearly rebounded off the keeper's back and into his own net.

"Give [the Rapids] credit," said Nicol. "They ran their tails off. They got behind the ball."

The tactics for the visitors were clear from the outset: defend deep, sacrifice possession, and counterattack with four or five bodies when given the opportunity. They worked to perfection as the home side failed to break down a defense that had shown cracks for most of the season.

"They needed a result," said defender Jay Heaps. "They were smart. They got behind us. They had a lot of the ball, but nowhere to go. We have to tip our hats to those guys."

Nicol raised eyebrows with the withdrawal of Jose Cancela after 61 minutes. The Uruguayan playmaker had struggled to impact the match, but may have proved useful as space opened in the latter stages of the match.

"We had lost the midfield for some strange reason, even with five in the midfield," said Nicol. "Unfortunately, Pepe [Cancela] was the one who had to make way. We had to make the change to get the ascendancy."

Revolution fans had a glimmer of hope when Guy Melamed was sent off for his second booking in the 79th minute. A pair of poor decisions led to mistimed tackles and an early shower for the former Boston College star.

"It was a rash challenge by Guy," said Nicol. "He's a good kid and a good player, but he made an error in the challenge and paid for it."

The former Scottish international summed up the encounter concisely as he looked to draw inspiration from his side's performance.

"On the face of it, we were looking to get three points at home against a team who needed a result," said Nicol.

Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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